Blog #InnovationMonth – A Student’s Perspective on Creating Enabling Clinical Environments for Neurodiverse Students

15 May 2024

A guest blog from #150Leaders Becky Nisbet, Nursing Student at the University of  York. This blog aims to reflect on issues discussed in our recent Innovation Month podcast, Creating Enabling Clinical Environments for Autistic Student Nurses.

The 7th Annual Neurodiversity Celebration Week took place in March 2024. Neurodiversity awareness has increased since the celebration week was founded in 2018, but we still have a way to go to reach equality and equity.

‘Neurodiversity’ is a broad and often misunderstood term that covers neurological differences within the population. Being neurodivergent means having a neurological difference that is not the majority. The most well-known examples of neurodivergence are Autism or ADHD, but the term also applies to dyslexia, dyspraxia and Tourette’s, amongst many others.

This lack of awareness in the population can cause difficulty when addressing the challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals, because of the diverse and differing needs, likes and dislikes within the neurodivergent population.

Being neurodivergent and studying a healthcare course, such as nursing like myself, can have its own unique challenges, and these will be different for each person. Some neurodivergent people may struggle in loud environments, others will thrive in busy and noisy places. So, if you’re wondering how to support your neurodivergent students, colleagues or peers, the best approach is to ask and talk to them, champion their strengths and help them navigate their challenges without taking control.

My experience as an autistic student nurse has been diverse across my programme so far. I have seen examples of exceptional support, but have also had some less than positive experiences, which I know to be shared with many other neurodivergent healthcare students across the UK. I have grown a lot in my 18 months so far as a student nurse, and adapting to the constantly changing healthcare environment has been challenging but worthwhile. I have no doubts that this is the career for me.

For my Student Leadership Programme project, I have looked at identifying these challenges and begun to implement changes to improve the culture of supporting neurodivergent students. Students across many universities have spotted key areas lacking in support including:

  • Lack of implementation of reasonable adjustments
  • Poor understanding of neurodiversity and what it is
  • Culture of practice area / academic institution.

These are issues we can all take ownership of and take small action to change. With the right support, neurodivergent students will thrive as neurodivergent healthcare professionals, and can be great assets to organisations, teams and their professions.

I think the culture is changing and improving around understanding of neurodiversity, but we can all do our bit to get there. If we are to strive to make more inclusive workplaces and educational institutions, this will improve the wellbeing of our staff and students, and ultimately influence patient care. Neurodivergent or not, the best and most productive teams are ones that are diverse, so neurodiversity is everybody’s business.

Additional Resources

Health Education England (2022). Guide to practice-based learning for neurodivergent students. [Online]

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